Going through my book collection as I arranged my new kitchen bookshelves, I spent time paging through my favorite books. A recipe that stuck out was one for cracklin’ bread. This is basically a traditional corn bread with pork cracklin’ mixed through.
I am rarely without some sort of pork skin, whether it be ham, bacon, or straight up pork, but I am a little of a purist when it comes to cornbread. I was not certain how it could be improved, even with a pork supplement. I thought one way to make this more my own would be to make a variation of the Tartine country bread. A country bread, but instead of a combination of white and whole wheat flour, I would use a 50/50 blend of white flour and cornmeal.
After keeping my starter rolling for three months without a kitchen, I made this loaf by going through bulk fermentation then adding a cup of country ham skins that had been boiled for hours. After mixing these through the dough, the loaf was shaped and left in the banneton overnight in the fridge to rise. To bring the American South back into the bread, I coated the top in benne seed. This addition provided a great nuttiness the bread, post-bake
Once the loafs hit the combo-cooker and went into the oven, the smell throughout our house was fantastic. Baking bread is an all-time great smell, but throw country ham skins and you really have something. The loaf came out of the oven and as you would suspect did not rise like a traditional 100% flour loaf.
After letting the loaf cool, we sliced into it and saw the deep-red/brown flecks of ham. The crumb had a yellow hue and smelled sour from the starter and sweet from the corn meal. Combined with the salty skin, this was a complex loaf that turned out slightly different than I expected. I foresaw skin crisping and the flavors running through the bread. In reality, the bread had its own flavor that was seasoned with these flecks of salty, funky ham when you got one in a bite.
Out of curiosity, I had another cup of ham skins, so I went ahead and added them to the next pan of cornbread I made. While it was a tasty cornbread, I feel my decision was warranted. I do have a particular preference for plain, simple cornbread, but I have a new loaf to make now at home.